Winchester civic chiefs will honour the man who has done more than almost anyone to shed light on the city’s history.

The city council will award the freedom of the city to Professor Martin Biddle, the eminent archaeologist.

Prof Biddle has spent years since the 1960s undertaking digs that uncovered Winchester’s Iron Age, Roman, Saxon and medieval history.

It will be the first time the honour has been bestowed since local historian Barbara Carpenter Turner in 1987.

The ceremony will take place at the annual council meeting at the Guildhall on May 19.

Prof Biddle’s series of publications The Winchester Studies arose from these investigations and are held in high regard by archaeological and local communities. He also enjoys an international reputation for the techniques and the thoroughness of his research.

In proposing Professor Biddle, Cllr Therese Evans said: “His work at Winchester has been nominated as one of the top 10 most important archaeological studies in the world. Before the 1960s very little was known of Winchester’s archaeology and early history.

“The Iron Age origins of the settlement had only been guessed at, only a few streets and houses of the Roman town had been uncovered, and nothing was known of the process by which Winchester, one of the principal cities of early medieval northern Europe, had developed.

“Martin Biddle brought in a new and pioneering approach to archaeology and investigated the whole history of the city which put Winchester on the archaeological map, and it is only fitting that the city should now recognise his contributions.

“Probably his best-known achievement was the excavation of the Old Minster on the Cathedral Green where he and his wife Birthe Kjolbye-Biddle achieved the first near completion of an Anglo-Saxon cathedral and changed perceptions of Winchester’s archaeology.

“His work showed the importance of this site in the history of the city and of the kingdom of Wessex. He also showed how the ruined Roman town was developed into a royal and ecclesiastical centre in the 7th to 9th centuries, and became the central place in a network of defended ‘burhs’ which provided protection from the Danish attacks which had overrun much of the country.

“The Winchester Studies are recognised as the only comprehensive research of a British city from Roman times to the 19th century. His contribution to Winchester is one of which local people can feel justly proud, and other cities envious. I am delighted that Professor Biddle is to receive this honour.”

His wife Birthe, died in January. He lives in Oxford.